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small analog vs large digital desk
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
Lives for gear
 

small analog vs large digital desk

no doubt this is THE place and another opportunity for endless discussions between analog and digital gear fanatics, purists versus eclectics, minimalists vs real gearslutz, traditionalists vs modernists, amateurs vs pros...

...and i mostly enjoy reading these discussions and occasionally participate in some of them - for once, i'd prefer however reading (mostly) from very experienced engineers who have extensive knowledge of using vastly different desks in different fields of our profession what criteria leads them to choose a

small minimal (new) analog desk vs a large scale (used) digital desk,

based on the assumption that both systems can be found for about the same amount of money (which is actually the case).



___



[don't wanna make this a case study but would like to give you some context on what made me think about different desks (again): i bought (one of) my studer vista 1 32-fader (silver edition) digital broadcast desk for less than what the owner of a local jazz club had to pay for a sonosax desk...

we are both very happy with our gear choice as long as we look at things just from our perspective which in my case is mixing live (mostly jazz, rock, blues), broadcasting (all genre) and recording/mixing of classical music (from old to modern - although the latter term is already a hundret years old now...) - he is a brilliant musician, band leader, sideman, arranger, composer, owner and promotor of a jazz club; we both have been working several decades in our profession.

things however look worse when it comes to crossing the bridges: i get frustrated by the very limited set of functions when having to work on his desk with inexeprienced musicians, unsuitable mics, in an acoustically challenging room, with an esoteric pa yet high expectations from the audience - he gets confused by the multitude of options on my desk (not commonly found on less sophisticated desks - pls do not comment on the desk if you haven't been using a studer, stagetec or lawo desk regularly and hence know the differences between them and soundcraft, digico, avid etc. desks) and prefers to swap a mic, move it or leave it off entirely, re-position musicians, put up additional diffusors, suggest changes in the arrangement etc.

you might say 'choose the right approach, technique and gear for the situation' - well, be both think we do! i admit my approach is pretty elitist in terms of equipment (lots of excellent gear with tons of options for every imaginable scenario); however, his approach in some ways is very demanding too: it requires way less gear but much more contribution and collaboration from all participants...]
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
Lives for gear
It comes down to how portable and how adaptive the desk needs to be, for the number of settings and complexity and diversity of music types you are likely to deal with. In your case I'll guess the flexibility and versatility needs to be maximal, to justifying you buying it ? Or maybe you are happy to own multiple desks, and take the one with you that day which best fits the needs of the gig ?

Contrast this with the jazz club owner, where the desk can remain in place, it's a somewhat more constrained music genre (as regards number and type of instruments) and the space limitations in the club of numbers of people on stage, and perhaps even size of mix desk, etc. He may have no need of retaining scenes, fader locations and other types of recall/automation.....another argument in favour of him being happy with an analog desk ?

If you are looking at his setup and appreciating the predictability and simplicity, and if your back muscles and spine are telling you your mobile days are numbered, it might be time to start looking into joint management or ownership of a similar club yourself....so you can operate in a more consistent and less pressured workplace and headspace ?

As to which desk, you have already answered your question...there is no universally 'right' one.....they all have their pluses and minuses...so if you're going to remain a mobile operator you probably need access (rental/hire vs ownership) to several....but you already know that !
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
Lives for gear
 

guess you're not much familiar with current day studer gear: i happen to favor the 32-fader version desks yet i could as well be using the vista compact remote (which is the size of a large laptop, see pic), a 2hu infinity core processor (see pic) and 3hu (see pic) stagesboxes (plus there's even a computer card available which can take care of the processing for less demanding applications) -
my 128-track hd-madi recorder is also just 1hu as well as my beloved lake speaker processor which i take everywhere i go; fits all in into two racks (or three for additional toys from quantec, tc, jünger etc).

so no, size, weight or my age are non-issues...
Attached Thumbnails
small analog vs large digital desk-20191112_065311.jpg   small analog vs large digital desk-20191112_065605.jpg   small analog vs large digital desk-20191112_065625.jpg  
Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
Lives for gear
The small rack-height gear and laptop sized mixer look very attractive in terms of bulk/weight and convenience....but I'm sure there would be situations where a larger fader-count is the better choice, and only the user can decide that
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
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Plush's Avatar
I think if you run a recording company or live sound company, you would have to have both types of consoles. Live now requires capability to service very large input lists so that means a flexible digital console with or without remote control surfaces. The biggest ones are in a truck.

Small jazz shows / smaller classical recordings can be handled very well with an 6, 8, or 12 input console--analog or digital. Smaller groups are the majority of most jazz and classical work.

I do realize that the OP already knows the answer to his questions, so I'll just say I always prefer a super high quality analog console with great converters for recording classical.

I'll leave the live sound recommendations to those with that expertise.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
things however look worse when it comes to crossing the bridges: i get frustrated by the very limited set of functions when having to work on his desk with inexeprienced musicians, unsuitable mics, in an acoustically challenging room, with an esoteric pa yet high expectations from the audience - he gets confused by the multitude of options on my desk <snip> and prefers to swap a mic, move it or leave it off entirely, re-position musicians, put up additional diffusors, suggest changes in the arrangement etc.
I haven't used your desk, but I can empathise with your frustration. I take my own (small-format, digital) desk to pretty much every gig - it has features that I like, and a workflow I'm very familiar with. Using a different desk is usually fine, but I'd always rather use the one I spent time choosing.

However, I find that wonderful things can be done with a simple analogue desk and a good mic selection, hence my highlight in your post. Good sound starts at the source, and a crappy mic picking up excess spill will sound bad through any mixer you or I could name.


So, my recommendation here would be to try your mics (which I'm sure are both suitable and high-quality) with his desk. While it might not have the flexibility that you're used to, I think good results will still be perfectly achievable.

Chris
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
I (...) I always prefer a super high quality analog console with great converters for recording classical (...)
the reason i started this thread is that imo there's no difference in terms of quality between a studer vista and sonosax or neve etc. desks and between studer and prism or euphonix etc. converters - hence the reason i'm using my desks for pretty much all of my work.



[there is however a huge difference in terms of features which i'm mainly using to compensate for effects of close mic positions and a bunch of features not found in any other desk: one is the virtual surround panning, an intensity and delay-based pan modus which uses a virtual model of the surround mic system which can mimic the actual surround mic system and hence make it very easy to position spot mics in the surround field]
Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris661 View Post
I haven't used your desk, but I can empathise with your frustration. I take my own (small-format, digital) desk to pretty much every gig - it has features that I like, and a workflow I'm very familiar with. Using a different desk is usually fine, but I'd always rather use the one I spent time choosing.

However, I find that wonderful things can be done with a simple analogue desk and a good mic selection, hence my highlight in your post. Good sound starts at the source, and a crappy mic picking up excess spill will sound bad through any mixer you or I could name.


So, my recommendation here would be to try your mics (which I'm sure are both suitable and high-quality) with his desk. While it might not have the flexibility that you're used to, I think good results will still be perfectly achievable.

Chris
i'm not arguing against analog desks in terms of sound quality: for RECORDING, i'll take even a simple one any day over any of those new cheapish digital toys! - for MIXING however (which imo is a much different thing than 'BALANCING' a few channels) they lack essential features and i can't help but wondering why people keep spending a fortune for simplistic desks (simple in terms of features)?!

we didn't have much of a choice in earlier decades than getting a calrec, cadac, neve, harrison or whatever high quality analog desk for classical recording but these days, high end digital desks imo offer both pristine sound quality AND a vast array of tools/functions which allow us to perform tasks which simply wouldn't be possible in the analog domain - well, with maybe with multiple operators, a ton of outboard and enough time for setup.

...so i rather schlepp my beloved studers to those gigs which depend on highest signal quality and vast operational options, regardless of genre or application (remote recording of classical music), live sr for jazz, blues, rock) or broadcasting - there is something to be found in each aera which, when used in another field, can yield superior results compared to sticking to the usual routine... *

now i don't drag my desks to every job i'm doing (right now i'm mixing a theater play in a very old church on an seemingly equally old dm1000...) yet the only fun (besides the music of course) i'm having is that operating different desk every now and then keeps me fit! - more often than not, i'm having a hard time when using anything of lesser quality than my beloved studer desks (or any of similar quality) though and i keep wondering why most other manufacturers keep copying (what i consider to be) design and operating mistakes from each other!




* would be worth another thread - but in what forum? it would touch remote/location recording, live sound/system engineering, broadcasting and (to a lesser degree) mastering...

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 3 weeks ago at 02:50 PM.. Reason: edited twice
Old 3 weeks ago
  #9
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Plush's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
the reason i started this thread is that imo there's no difference in terms of quality between a studer vista and sonosax or neve etc. desks and between studer and prism or euphonix etc. converters - hence the reason i'm using my desks for pretty much all of my work.



[there is however a huge difference in terms of features which i'm mainly using to compensate for effects of close mic positions and a bunch of features not found in any other desk: one is the virtual surround panning, an intensity and delay-based pan modus which uses a virtual model of the surround mic system which can mimic the actual surround mic system and hence make it very easy to position spot mics in the surround field]
Sorry, but the first part of your quote is where we must part ways!

Digital console can sound excellent UNTIL it is compared side by side with a top flight analog console. This excellence is preserved when using, for example, a DAD converter. (high sample rate) Analog console has much better (higher) frequency response and better low level detail. Much better sound.

How about comparing a digital console with a Rens Heijnis mic preamp with response to 1MHz?

Features are very important and I can certainly agree that a digital console is the most flexible and powerful.

In my kind of work I use both analog and digital. But the analog ALWAYS sounds better. Too bad we cannot pass along this super high fidelity "console feed" to the listener since the listener ends up hearing it as a digital file/CD/stream.

Consult Five/Four Productions' work where they use a Studer console as their front end.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Sorry, but the first part of your quote is where we must part ways!

Digital console can sound excellent UNTIL it is compared side by side with a top flight analog console. This excellence is preserved when using, for example, a DAD converter. (high sample rate) Analog console has much better (higher) frequency response and better low level detail. Much better sound.

How about comparing a digital console with a Rens Heijnis mic preamp with response to 1MHz?

Features are very important and I can certainly agree that a digital console is the most flexible and powerful.

In my kind of work I use both analog and digital. But the analog ALWAYS sounds better. Too bad we cannot pass along this super high fidelity "console feed" to the listener since the listener ends up hearing it as a digital file/CD/stream.

Consult Five/Four Productions' work where they use a Studer console as their front end.
we DO part ways here: i'm no longer buying into analog supremacy (for quite a while actually: since the days of fairlight to be precise) - if not for sound quality, it's for functionality for which i prefer digital.

anyway, i appreciate your comments (and don't want to turn this thread into another analog vs digital discussion, as mentioned in my opening post): i'll take you (will always) prefer analog and that's fine!




p.s. i do get to compare digital with hi-end analog and can report that my mci jh500, studer a800/a827 hardly get any work anymore...
Old 3 weeks ago
  #11
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Plush's Avatar
Not talking about analog tape here.

Also I agree about the dead end of analog vs. digital discussions.

I am only talking about consoles and the front end of the recordings.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #12
All digital devices are limited by their conversion. A high quality analog console is not. THD can be 20 db below the best ADC's. Until we get the implants Cmd. Data has in Star Trek it all starts and ends in analog.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
All digital devices are limited by their conversion. A high quality analog console is not. THD can be 20 db below the best ADC's. Until we get the implants Cmd. Data has in Star Trek it all starts and ends in analog.
...and yet we all use these terrible sounding converters and some desperados even evil dsp! - seriously folks, maybe re-read my original post...

[it's btw in the sub-forum 'all things technical' and i assume there's a reason why there's no subforum titeled 'myths, believes, indulgence, purgatory': i'm pretty sure though that steve would love to add another sub-forum, especially for the die-hard analog fraction :-) ]

shall the force be with you!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
Shall the ear in plants be with you. Until then it's an analog world for most humans. Rush Limbaugh may be an exception...
Old 1 week ago
  #15
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must be tough if a younger mixer settles for a technology in which an older fixer has no business anymore...
Old 1 week ago
  #16
To many mixers, not enough fixers.
Old 5 days ago
  #17
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one of the desks needs some outboard for mixing...
Attached Thumbnails
small analog vs large digital desk-20191129_171236.jpg   small analog vs large digital desk-20191129_203004.jpg  
Old 4 days ago
  #18
Nah, with good mic placement one shouldn’t need much more than channel EQ to get a good mix.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
one of the desks needs some outboard for mixing...
Old 4 days ago
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
Nah, with good mic placement one shouldn’t need much more than channel EQ to get a good mix.
i'm not talking eq (which is reasonable although somewhat limited), i'm talking about dynamics and efx.

additional trouble is that even if you have some outboard available (which i did, see pic; NOT my choice though!) setup/workflow/'speed' of use is very slow.

also, the visual of the desk/its settings is rather poor; almost any cheapo desk does much better in this regard...
Attached Thumbnails
small analog vs large digital desk-20191129_203200.jpg  
Old 3 days ago
  #20
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Plush's Avatar
Nope
Old 2 days ago
  #21
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oh yes, it does - see pic for comparison (and overview)...
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small analog vs large digital desk-20191202_175200.jpg  
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